Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be Real!

It is the new year and the traditional time to review the past business year so we can look forward to a successful new year for our handmade and artisan businesses.

This is not going to be a post about making strategic plans, updating your business plan, or other brain-twisting exercises to implement.

It is a post about reality.

I am, by day, a strategic marketing communications professional, who works with small businesses to help them push forward with their branding and market recognition. The core component to my consultation is.....reality.

Be real with your expectations of your business and the expectations of your customers. From there, all else falls into place.

I could stop there and leave you with that wise message, but I will explain a bit to grab this concept.

Be Real with YOUR Expectations of Your Business
Take an audit of what you do within your business framework. For example:
  • How much time did you give to your business last year:
  • How much time do you have to give to your business in reality?
  • How much money did you put back into your business last year?
  • How much money do you really have to put into your business?
If these are out-of-balance, you should readjust your thinking and expectations.

Time and money may make a business.
But, it is HOW you spend your time and money that makes success!

Be Real About the Expectations of Your Customers
You should know your customers well enough by now to know what they expect from you. If you have sold one, two, or 202 items, you can see a trend.
  • Much of what customers expect from you is driven by you! 
  • Now is the time to figure out if your customer interaction and service process is working best for both of you.
  • If not, change it so it works best for the customer AND for you. 
The expectations of your customers are set by your communication messages and your actions. What do you tell them? (policies, shop announcements, advertising, blogs, etc...) And, what do you actually do? (shipping times, quality of goods, exchanges, packaging, etc...)

Once you align your expectations for yourself based upon realty with the expectations of your customers through communications, there will be much smoother sailing in 2012.

Seek out small business owners who exhibit this balance. Network with them and let them share with you how they do it!

Let's make 2012 the year of balance and being real. Best to you all for 2012!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do I Really Need Social Networking for My Artisan or Handmade Online Shop?

As a follow-up to an IndieCEO post on social networking, "Social Networking: Time Waster or Business Builder...," I received a couple of excellent questions from Infused Moments. Be sure to check out her very cute shop!

In my original post referenced above, I talked about networking sites like ning, IndiePublic, and other handmade and artist communities outside of Facebook and Twitter. Infused Moments asks:
  • What about social networking sites like Twitter? Would that be a good one to have and maintain?
  • What if you have an account on one of these social networking sites, could you just use that one or should you create a whole new one that is all about your online store?
  • What kinds of edits should you make everyday on your networking sites? Like about sales, new products, etc..??
This may be a long blog article but it is important information to consider, especially if you are new to online selling and social networking.

As an overview, I present these marketing subjects from a strategic level, since that is my profession. However, there are many articles on the web that discuss the tactical efforts for social networking and specifically for Twitter and Facebook for handmade. Search and you will find some great and useful information. A good start is to search on

It is important to look at your business from a strategic, big-picture viewpoint. It is the difference between being in the clouds or being in the weeds

If we step back and look at the big picture of what we are doing with social networking, how much time it takes away from creating, and how it might affect our overall sales in the future (clouds), we can decide what to do on a daily basis to get each individual sale (weeds).

Social networking accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have come to be expected for a business presence, both in the handmade community and in the corporate community. When our market niche expects something, we need to be there no matter the level of activity. I would suggest that a handmade shop needs to be branded on these sites with at least account profiles for business pages, even if consistent participation is not possible.

Business or Personal?
  • What if you have an account (personal) on one of these social networking sites, could you just use that one or should you create a whole new one that is all about your online store?
Because the strategic objective is to brand your business shop and bring in “likes” and followers within your targeted customer base, your “business” activities need to be in your “business” name.

There is nothing wrong with inviting your personal friends to like and follow your business pages/networks and there is nothing wrong with deploying business information through your personal channels to a small degree. However, keeping your business just that…, is the professional way to manage your shop’s branding. It also allows you to actually target your niche customer demographics.

In other words, if you make cute widgettes for young women in the 19 to 26 age range, then those are the people you need to find online and bring them into your networks. If you make children’s items, find the decision makers - moms - and participate in “mommy” networks.

Another example is that of my GalleriaLinda brand handmade jewelry, I know that my buyers tend to be in the 30 to 60 age range and are usually career women or highly active in local communities. I have joined several online networks for local businesses and career women because that is where I will find this demographic.

Which Network is Best to Start?
  • What about social networking sites like Twitter? Would that be a good one to have and maintain?
It is my opinion that Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are the first and best strategic networking sites to have a profile account because these accounts are expected by consumers when they discover your business. They want to go somewhere online to find out the whole story. If you have a branded website like my GalleriaLinda Jewelry website, they will look for that first. If not, then they will go to these others.

Consider your profile on these accounts as a mini-business card that, depending upon the site, can expand into your mini-brochure. This will provide branding SEO and can bring in friends and followers from your niche community of sellers and buyers.

If you had to only choose one, my opinion is to have a business page on Facebook. Facebook provides a platform for you to have a mini-network all your own.Many selling venues have Facebook page code so you can even sell from your Facebook account. You can interact with people, invite them to like, and generally be the friendly chatty shopkeeper, while branding your business and nurturing potential customer relationships.

Twitter is a good way to get your links in front of a lot of people quickly, especially if you use hashtags. If you send out a tweet about a new listing with a link, just put #handmade or #yoursellingvenue to push your link out to hundreds of others over and above your own numbers of followers. Just be mindful of the 140 character limit. Twitter is social so be sure to "talk" to others to nurture relationships, comment on their links and retweet information.

With shop RSS feeds, you can set up feeds to Facebook and Twitter so every time you list one or two items, it feeds automatically to both with links to your item. Pretty nifty! I use that can feed to a variety of networks. There are others as well.

Why Update Profiles?
  • What kinds of edits should you make every day on your networking sites? Like about sales, new products, etc..??
When I talk about updating your profiles frequently, this is to make sure that your profiles and branding are more SEO friendly to come up in searches. Google loves new content and ranks it higher than stale content with no activity or change. Any minor change you make to the content or by switching out photos refreshes it and deploys it out into Internet land one more time.

If you are active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you will not need to update your profile itself if you are tweeting and posting, which is your updated content. If you are inactive, then it is a good idea to tend to your profile once a week.

It is an SEO strategy to be found more readily online and in searches. These updates can be minor tweaks, a series of planned tag lines you switch out, an introduction to a new type product, or just a mention of what you are working on and when customers can expect to see them in your shop. It does not need to be extensive – replacing a sentence or an avatar or photo is fine. Consistency is the key. 


Now for the big question that we all want to know!
Will these social networking sites bring in sales? 

The quick nutshell answer is….yes and no. It depends!

It depends on so many variables, such as your product, your followers’ demographics, and your consistent network activity. Many sellers say they do get sales through Twitter and Facebook and they work them hard. The key is having people follow you who are interested enough in your product to buy in the first place (your niche customer demographic). And THAT is the puzzle.

Thank you Infused Moments for the great questions that can help all of us!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pricing Your Handmade Products Can Be Challenging

Pricing my Gallerialinda handmade beaded jewelry is often challenging. There are many thing to consider, such as hard costs of materials, time, markup for retail, and a phantom price that the market will bear. So, your costs + time + markup may not equal price that sells the item.

Usually, after figuring out my whole cost formula, I will then search the Internet for similar items using similar materials to see what is listed and if I can, research what has been sold (although some venues will not show the sold price). From there I will throw a dart at the board and come up with a price that I think is market-friendly.

Here is a great video from Dr. David Weiman on pricing your jewelry. It will translate to any handmade item you create and is worth viewing.  He makes a case that artisan, handcrafted jewelry makers should charge more for their jewelry, because the right buyers will pay more for it.

It is all about marketing to your specific buyer that loves artisan products. That is the key!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Strategic Trends for Online Selling and Handmade Communities for 2011

Everyone is talking "trends" these days. The new year always brings about predictions and opinions on what our world will look like and how our business will fare in the coming year.

Here are some specific strategic trends that relate to online sellers and the handmade community as "solopreneurs." You can read the enhanced article with details on

Wishing you a profitable 2011!
  1. Organic, green initiatives and renewable energy will continue to be among the hottest investments and trends.
  2. Financing will continue to be difficult into 2011; most small business will turn to non-bank asset-based lending and pay more on the amount borrowed. Lenders will screen out businesses that don't have a solid business model. 
  3. Unemployment will continue to rise. Small businesses will continue to lead innovation in the marketplace.
  4. More Fortune 500 companies will market to women specifically
  5. The distinctions between online and offline will become irrelevant
  6. Brands will have to play well with others, as companies have less and less control over how, when, where and with what other products their brands are experienced.
  7. We will need to move from thinking about individual products to thinking about cohesive experiences and must continue the evolution of integrating online and offline brand experiences.
  8. We have to get into the mind of our customers so that we are delivering brand experiences where, when and how they want them. 
  9. Increase in apps usage as more and consumers use smartphones in their business as well as their personal life. 
  10. Cloud computing can be a phenomenal innovation for working collaborations to enable solopreneurs and small firms to work in real time to leverage resources with great efficiency. 
  11. People will talk less and text and e-mail more.
  12. Solopreneurs who took jobs to survive in 2008 and 2009 will relaunch their practices or other new entrepreneurial endeavors. 
  13. The number of networking groups you can join will continue to increase, forcing those groups to be more strategic about their message and the value they provide.
  14. Allowing information seekers to replay webinars and live events at their convenience will continue.
  15. More peer-to-peer business planning. Because of the need for prompt business idea validation and feedback, startups may emerge as key components of business planning for next-generation entrepreneurs. 
  16. Business plans will start to appear in a more compact and digital form., making them more accessible to potential funders, mentors and potential customers.